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VOL. 6 | NO. 30 | Saturday, July 20, 2013

Daily Digest

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Orion Donates $7,500 to Nonprofit Groups

Orion Federal Credit Union has since the beginning of the year donated more than $7,500 and more than 1,000 items to seven local nonprofit groups.

The charitable giving is part of the credit union’s community involvement program, Orion Gives Back. Launched in January 2012, Orion chooses a nonprofit each month to be the focus of the giving initiative.

Recipients thus far have included the Mid-South Food Bank, Memphis Family Shelter, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Farmers Market, Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Youth Villages, among many others.

State Labor Department to Discuss Workers’ Comp

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is holding a series of seminars across the state to explain the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2013.

The bill removes injured workers’ claims from state trial courts and instead creates a special panel appointed by the governor to hear claims and appeals.

The seminars aim to educate employers about the impact of the bill, including ways to avoid workplace injuries and how to better handle them if they occur. The seminars are being put on by the Workers’ Compensation Division, the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

They take place from July 25 through Aug. 29. Specific dates, times and locations can be found on the department’s website at http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd .

Cohen 'Stunned' Woman Isn't His Daughter

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, said Thursday that he’s “stunned and dismayed” to learn that DNA tests revealed he is not the father of a woman with whom he had an affectionate Twitter exchange this year.

In February, tweets between Cohen and Victoria Brink, a 24-year-old Texas woman, attracted public attention during the president’s State of the Union address. Soon after, Cohen revealed that he was Brink’s father. He said he’d learned about the relationship three years earlier.

But on Thursday, CNN reported that DNA tests showed Cohen is not her father.

“I was stunned and dismayed when DNA tests disproved what Victoria and I believed about our relationship,” Cohen said in a Thursday statement. “I still love Victoria, hold dear the time I have shared with her, and hope to continue to be a part of her life.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride these last three and a half years from which I have learned something about parenting and some more about love, life, and heartache.”

Brink is the daughter of Texas criminal defense lawyer Cynthia White Sinatra, who ran for Congress in 2006 against Ron Paul. Cohen described his relationship with Sinatra as longtime friends. Texas executive John Brink raised Victoria Brink.

CNN reported Thursday that it obtained DNA from John Brink, Victoria Brink and Cohen for tests, and that results showed Cohen wasn’t her father.

Cohen’s office said that he also submitted DNA to determine paternity independent of the CNN report.

Cohen, who has never been married, said in February that he decided to publicly acknowledge Brink as his daughter after bloggers and the media tried to make exchanges during the State of the Union appear salacious. Cohen’s message to Brink included a Twitter abbreviation for “I love you.”

30-Year Mortgage Rate Declines to 4.37 Percent

Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages declined this week as concern waned in the financial markets over the Federal Reserve’s possible slowing of its bond purchases this year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average on the 30-year loan slipped to 4.37 percent. That’s down from 4.51 percent last week but is still near the highest level in nearly two years.

Just two months ago the rate was 3.35 percent, barely above the record low of 3.31 percent. Rates had surged in recent weeks amid concern over the Fed’s bond purchases, which have kept interest rates low.

The average on the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.41 percent from 3.53 percent last week.

Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week the Fed will continue to stimulate the economy, even after it begins to slow the bond purchases.

Even with the recent gains, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. Low rates have helped fuel a housing recovery that is helping to drive economic growth this year.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was 0.7 point this week, down from 0.8 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan also slipped to 0.7 point from 0.8 point.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.66 percent. The fee declined to 0.4 point from 0.5.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage fell to 3.17 percent from 3.26 percent. The fee eased to 0.6 point from 0.7.

Tapes of Two Elvis Concerts Added to California Auction

Uncirculated tapes of two Elvis Presley concerts recorded two months before he died have been added to a celebrity memorabilia auction in California.

The Mecum Auction Co. says the tapes will be among the 2,000 pieces of celebrity-related memorabilia being displayed and auctioned in Santa Monica, Calif., on July 26-27.

Mecum says the concert tapes were made at live Elvis shows in Omaha, Neb., on June 19, 1977, and Rapid City, S.D., two days later. Mecum says the tapes include original audio and video footage.

Elvis died Aug. 16, 1977, in Memphis.

The auction also will include Elvis’ 1972 Cadillac Custom Estate Wagon and other Elvis-related items.

Arkansas Highway Chief Says Roads Face Funding Gap

Arkansas’ highway chief says the state still needs an additional $200 million a year over the next decade just to maintain its roads, despite extra money coming in from a half-cent sales tax voters approved last year.

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett told a legislative panel Thursday that he expects to begin issuing bonds in September that will be repaid by the new sales tax. He said he expects work to begin on some of the projects by the end of the year.

Voters last year approved the tax, which will raise about $1.8 billion during the next decade for the state’s highway needs. The half-cent tax increase is set to expire by 2023.

Bank of Bartlett Earns Magazine’s High Marks

The “ABA Banking Journal,” the American Bankers Association’s monthly magazine, has recognized Bank of Bartlett as among the nation’s top performing banks based on return on equity for 2012.

In the current edition of the magazine, the “ABA Banking Journal” lists the bank as the nation’s second best-performing community bank, with return on average equity at 65.33 percent and assets of $370.4 million.

Since its founding in 1980, Bank of Bartlett has financed the construction of more than 20,000 homes in Shelby County and currently operates eight bank branches in Shelby County.

Council Delays Referendums and OKs Alarm Fee Hike

Memphis City Council members delayed Tuesday, July 16, several items that would have called for special referendum elections in this off-election year for Memphis voters.

The council delayed final votes to set referendums on civil service changes as well as on a proposed half-percent sales tax hike.

It also delayed a vote on third and final reading of the ordinance prohibiting pension “double dipping” by retired city employees who return to work for the city or a local government entity and continue to collect their pension as they get paid for the new job.

The council approved on third and final reading an ordinance that ups some false alarm fines and fees.

Also approved was $250,000 in funding for traffic signal improvements at Pleasant View Road and Covington Pike as well as $300,000 for engineering and inspection work on a Central Avenue crosswalk funded by the state for the University of Memphis. And $936,400 for road improvements along Fairley Road were approved.

The council approved accepting $1.1 million in state Fast Track grant money for an access road into the site of the Nike plant expansion in Frayser.

With a $3.2 million contract approved between the city and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, the next phase of the renovation of the Elvis Presley Boulevard streetscape in Whitehaven will begin. The contract is to locate overhead utility lines underground on the stretch of the state highway from Brooks Road to Winchester Road.

Wunderlich Lists First Horizon as Buy

Wunderlich Securities Inc. has an analyst note out maintaining a buy rating on First Horizon National Corp., the Memphis-based parent company of First Tennessee Bank, and keeping a price target of $13 on the stock.

First Horizon reports second quarter results before the market opens Friday, July 19. In his note, Wunderlich analyst Kevin Reynolds said he expects the banking company to “meet or exceed” the consensus earnings estimate, which is $0.19 for the quarter.

The company’s results for the quarter, he added, “should include modest commercial loan growth, improving asset quality, and continued expense reductions, partially offset by slight (net interest margin) compression.”

AFSCME Union Names Tyree Interim Director

Gail Tyree, the assistant director of local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, becomes the interim executive director of the Memphis local effective July 22.

Tyree’s appointment was announced Wednesday, July 17, by union administrator Shelley Seeberg.

Outgoing executive director Chad Johnson is leaving the Memphis local to become California Area Field Services director of the international union.

Johnson had been instrumental in fashioning a still unfolding new model for city sanitation services as the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. seeks to move to a “pay as you throw” model.

The model, which is still an emerging proposal, is one in which city residents would begin to move toward a system in which they pay a solid waste fee based on the amount of waste they leave for the city to pick up.

Tyree has been a regular presence at countywide school board meetings representing union members who were affected by the countywide school board decisions to outsource some transportation services and all custodial services.

The union is one of the big three municipal unions representing the bulk of city employees.

Fed: Growth Improves Moderately Throughout US

A Federal Reserve survey says the U.S. economy grew in most parts of the country from late May through early July, bolstered by the housing recovery, consumers and more factory output.

Eleven of the Fed’s 12 banking districts reported “modest to moderate” growth. The Dallas district reported strong growth for the second straight survey.

Housing construction and home prices improved, while consumer spending increased in most districts, fueled by rising car and truck sales. The housing recovery is also driving more production of lumber, materials and construction equipment.

The report says hiring held steady or increased in most districts. But employers in some districts were reluctant to hire permanent or full-time workers.

Reid-Hooker Road Closed July 24-25

Reid-Hooker Road between Raleigh Lagrange Road and Monterey Road in north Shelby County will be closed to through traffic July 24-25.

County road crews will be repairing a pipe culvert north of Mary Creek Lane.

Officers Step Up Highway Safety Efforts

Law enforcement officials across the state are stepping up a campaign to increase highway safety.

Richard Holt is the Governor’s Highway Safety Office Law Enforcement administrator.

He says law enforcement statewide will be out in force from Thursday, July 18, to Sunday, July 21, and from July 25 to July 28 for the final phase of the More Cops-More Stops campaign to crack down on drivers who are speeding, drunk, distracted or not wearing a seat belt.

In 2011, officials say more than 700 people died in Tennessee traffic crashes.

Twenty-seven percent of the fatalities involved a drunk driver, and 23 percent were speeding-related crashes. Fifty-seven percent of those who died were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.

Appeal to Support Gun Law in Mississippi Coming

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says he’ll file an appeal early next week to try to push an open-carry gun measure into law.

A Hinds County circuit judge has put the law on hold, calling it “unconstitutionally vague.” Hood will ask the state Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.

Hood says many law enforcement officers around the state are confused about whether they can arrest someone who’s openly carrying a firearm.

Hood says a Hinds County judge has the power to block a state law from taking effect, because the seat of state government is in Hinds County.

But Hood’s also telling sheriffs and police officers in the other 81 counties they might be wasting their time by arresting people for simply carrying a gun that’s not concealed.

New Boutique Heads to Overton Square

A new boutique store is heading to Overton Square.

Alexandra Rushing, owner of Harbor Town boutique The Ivory Closet and Adel Amor Cosmetics, has signed a lease for 1,300 square feet for The Attic at Overton Square, next door to Bar Louie.

The retail boutique will carry men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from brands like Library of Flowers, Yosi Samra, Lucky Feather, Coobie and Chilly Jilly.

Ben Scharff, owner of IronJaw Labs and creator of IronJaw custom mouth guards, will co-own the business.

“Growing up in Memphis, we see Overton Square as a staple of our history and a vision of what will help shape the future of Memphis,” Rushing said in a statement. “We want to be a part of the renovation and revival of this fabulous Memphis landmark.”

The Attic, which is expected to open its doors in September, will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Loeb Properties Inc. has stepped up retail leasing at Overton Square.

Company officials said they believe it will provide new daytime traffic to complement the already bustling restaurant activity there.

Breakaway Running and Cardio Barre have also signed leases for stores at Overton Square.

June Building Permits Decline From Year Ago

The number of permits filed by builders in June declined significantly from the same month last year.

Builders filed 60 permits in June 2013, down from 89 permits filed in June 2012, according to real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

While the number of permits issued was down, average home sizes and prices were up year over year.

The average permit in June measured 3,712 square feet and $367,952 compared to 3,091 square feet and $231,884 in June 2012.

Regency Homebuilders LLC was the top builder as tracked by home permits in June (30; 2,799; $204,398) followed by Grant Homes (6; 2,870; $171,700).

Collierville’s Wolf River Ranch subdivisions saw the most activity, with 11 permits averaging 4,373 square feet and $383,909.

Collierville’s 38017 ZIP code led the way in June with 18 permits averaging 3,847 square feet and $339,778.

Builders sold 62 homes in June, down 13.9 percent from 83 sales in June 2012.

Grant Homes led the way with 11 sales averaging $251,019 and totaling $2.76 million, followed by Regency Homebuilders with six sales averaging $242,893 and totaling $1.45 million.

For the permits data from the second quarter, see Page 20.

Sullivan Branding Makes Personnel Moves

Sullivan Branding has made a few personnel changes and additions.

The brand development, advertising, marketing and PR agency has named Earl Keister executive creative director for the Nashville and Memphis offices. He’ll be based at the agency’s Nashville office, and he’s served as creative director of the Memphis office since September 2010.

The firm also has announced the hire of Leslie Skelton as digital strategy manager. She’ll lead online advertising and marketing strategies for tourism, retail and banking industry clients.

Jason Lee is Sullivan’s new art director. He specializes in 3D animation, video and photography.

Rounding out the new hires is Natalie Holcomb, who’s joined Sullivan Branding as social media coordinator.

Arkansas Cotton Acreage Hits Longtime Low

Cotton acreage is down sharply this year in Arkansas.

Agriculture officials estimate 320,000 acres of cotton have been planted in Arkansas this year. That’s only about half as much cotton as growers planted in 2012.

Jonesboro television station KAIT reports that farmers pulled back on cotton because of thin profit margins.

Producers risk losing money if the weather takes a bad turn or if pests are abundant. Also, the crop is threatened by herbicide-resistant pigweed, which can choke out cotton plants.

Metal Building Maker Spirco Honored for Safety Measures

Memphis metal building manufacturer Spirco Manufacturing has been recognized for outstanding safety measures.

The Metal Building Manufacturers Association recently awarded Spirco a 2012 Improved Safety Award in the category of 20 percent reduction in OSHA work case occurrences and restricted duty cases.

Each year, the association recognizes metal building systems manufacturers who show exceptional commitment to assuring workplace safety.

Spirco was one of only 10 companies across the nation to win an acknowledgement in its category.

Glazer’s Inc. Acquires Memphis’ Star Distributing

Glazer’s Inc. has signed an agreement to acquire majority control of Memphis-based Star Distributing Co.

Glazer president and CEO Sheldon Stein said the company’s strategy is to “aggressively expand” its footprint in beverage distribution, and the deal announced will give it a significant presence in Memphis.

His company is one of the largest distributors of wine, spirits and malt beverage products in the U.S.

Star distributes wine, spirits and specialty items in Memphis for national suppliers including Bacardi, Sazerac, Moet Hennessy USA and Beam, among others.

US Business Stockpiles Up Modest 0.1 Percent

U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles only slightly in May, despite a solid sales increase. The figures suggest economic growth has slowed but could pick up in the second half of the year.

The Commerce Department said Monday that business stockpiles rose just 0.1 percent in May from April, half the previous month’s increase.

Sales increased 1.1 percent in May after being flat in April. That’s the best gain since February.

Slower restocking could weigh on economic growth in the April-June quarter because it means companies ordered fewer factory goods. But the strong sales gain suggests companies may have to order more goods in the coming months to keep up with demand. That could drive more economic growth in the second half of the year.

Many analysts think economic growth has slowed to an annual rate of around 1 percent or even less in the April-June quarter. That would be lower than the subpar 1.8 percent annual rate from January through March.

Economists expect growth should rebound in the second half of the year to a roughly 2.5 percent annual rate as the effects of federal tax hikes and government spending cuts fade.

The May increase brought total stockpiles to a seasonally adjusted $1.66 trillion. That’s up just 3.8 percent from May 2012.

Wholesalers cut their stockpiles 0.5 percent, while manufacturers’ inventories were unchanged in May. Retail stockpiles rose 0.6 percent.

Sales at the wholesale level rose 1.6 percent to lead all categories. Sales at manufacturers and retailers increased slightly below that level.

A separate report Monday showed that retail sales slowed to a modest 0.4 percent increase in June.

The brighter second half outlook is bolstered by steady job growth, which has kept consumers spending. Employers have added 202,000 jobs a month through the first six months of this year. That’s up from 180,000 in the previous six months.

The increase in hiring has helped overall income grow, offsetting some of the drag from higher taxes.

DiAnne Price Receives Beale Street Note

Pianist and vocalist DiAnne Price, who died in March, will be honored with a brass note on Beale Street’s Walk of Fame, Sunday, July 21.

Price’s unique blues phrasings and her extensive songbook were featured at Memphis Sunday brunches as well as music festivals.

The ceremony honoring her will be at B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale at 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, Knox Phillips of Phillips Recording Studio was honored with a brass note that was presented to him Saturday at the Levitt Shell before the last live concert of the summer season in Overton Park.

Downtown Commission Creates Design Guidelines

After a nearly two-year process the Downtown Memphis Commission has produced the final draft of the Design Guidelines for Downtown.

The commission’s Design Review Board will review the document at its Aug. 7 meeting and the DMC board will be asked to consider adopting the final draft at its Aug. 21 meeting.

The 184-page document will guide the use of new technologies and materials, strategies of sustainable design, how public improvements – including sidewalk and streetscaping – should be pursued and how construction should be context-appropriate.

The goals are to promote maintaining Downtown as a “cohesive and livable place with an attractive pedestrian-oriented environment” while promoting the “preservation of historic, cultural and architectural heritage,” according to the DMC.

County Pension Fund Keeps Riding High

Driven in part by stock market gains, the value of the pension fund that pays benefits to Shelby County retirees in May was back to a high not seen since before the 2008 recession.

The size of the retirement defined benefit plan portfolio stood at nearly $1.03 billion in May.

The last time the value was higher than that was in December 2007.

Continuing a pattern, the fund for each of the first four months of 2013 has surpassed the monthly values for the first four months of every year back to 2007.

Electrolux Donates Air Conditioners

Executives at the Memphis Electrolux plant donated 200 room-size window air conditioning units Friday, July 12, as part of efforts by the Metropolitan Interfaith Association and Neighborhood Christian Centers to help needy Memphians in the worst of the summer heat.

The Frigidaire air conditioning units were donated as part of a larger effort with donations by Electrolux this week in Charlotte, N.C., Springfield, Tenn., and Anderson S.C., where the company also has manufacturing plants and headquarters.

Electrolux makes the Frigidaire units.

The units donated in Memphis will be distributed through Neighborhood Christian Centers to Shelby County residents who are in need.

Call 881-6013 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for information on how to apply.

PROPERTY SALES 61 262 16,169
MORTGAGES 28 132 10,054
BUILDING PERMITS 88 424 38,360
BANKRUPTCIES 36 92 7,564